Friday, June 20, 2014

Casper, Month 7

Month 7 has been all smiles from both of us. I’ve finally eased into work (gone are the moment of panic when I think about leaving you) and motherhood. You continue to be a happy, flexible, easy to love baby. But the main difference between last month and this month -- the one thing that probably makes everything else seem great -- is that you are sleeping.

We had to force the issue -- after 2 months of frequent waking we felt we had no choice. Sleep training is controversial. Many parents think it’s cruel to let a baby cry all alone. I was worried about this as well. It’s tough to hear your baby cry, but just because something is hard doesn’t make it wrong. The key question is at what age is a baby assumed to ask for things that he does not need? Certainly most people acknowledge that 2 year olds are always demanding shit they don’t need (candy, permission to hit, etc) and most agree that a 1 week old never asks for anything save necessities (they need food, sleep, cuddles and diaper changes and ask for little else). I think that you, at 6 months old, were asking for food and cuddles at 3am, but you didn’t need them. What you needed (and what I needed) was sleep. Letting you cry it out helped you to learn to put yourself to sleep and that has been a most valuable lesson for both of us (and dad too!).

Truthfully, the sleep training wasn’t that hard. We moved your crib from our room to your nursery on the same night that we started sleep training (hoping that some of your sleep issues were due to smelling me across the room and thinking "Hey, mom is here! I would love a snack!"). We didn’t have a hard plan on night one -- we thought we might go in and comfort you at some point or we might leave you to cry on your own as advocated by our pediatrician. In the end, as tempting as we were to go in and rock you, I felt like having me comfort you would only make things worse -- so, we went cold turkey.

You didn’t cry anywhere near as much or as hard as I had expected. In my imagining, crying it out meant listening to you wail until you had no energy left and passed out. In reality, the cries had fits and starts, you would work up to wailing and then get distracted by your crib mirror or thump your legs and whine for a few minutes before rubbing your eyes and slowly drifting off. Having a video monitor was immensely helpful for my own peace of mind.
You often sleep through the night now. Sleep through as in: down at 7:30 and up at 6am with no wake ups in between (or at least none where you cry loudly enough to wake your parents, if you’re in there awake and playing by yourself that’s fine too). Often you doze back off for another hour or two in the morning (almost always in bed between dad and I, one hand on each of us).

There are, of course, exceptions. You’ve been teething and we did have to go in for midnight tylenol dosing a couple of times over the past 2 weeks. Last week you started sleep rolling onto your belly which often wakes you up -- you seem very angry that someone came into your room and rolled you over (“Who was that jerk!?!?!”). For some reason you won’t roll yourself onto your back choosing instead to scream for 30mins and then fall asleep exhausted with your face pressed straight down into the mattress which leaves your dad and I to stare at the back of your head via the video monitor, wondering if you’ve dropped dead.

Your dad’s paternity leave came to an end this month so we’ve replaced him with a nanny. We joke that we had to pay someone to be your friend since you’ve made zero effort to go out into the world and make friends of your own. Kenesha’s strong suit is telling us over and over how cute you are. She also seems adept at reading you books, taking you to the park, feeding you and wiping your behind; but it’s the never-ending baby praise that won us over. Smart nanny work. You’re always excited to see her walk through the door -- your face lights up with a grin and, as if the joy is too much to take, you turn your head and smash your face into my shoulder before peeking up at her again. It’s comforting to leave you with someone you so clearly like to be with -- I hope stranger anxiety doesn’t set in an ruin this good thing. I miss you while I’m at work and spend my time waiting for meetings to start checking the baby tracking app for updates from the nanny. Your dad and I text each other during the day to alert one another to any opportunity to spy on you via the video monitor when you’re asleep in your crib. On the subway I daydream about you -- you at the park, you making a huge mess while eating. It’s not unlike the way I used to daydream about your dad when we first met. I’m amazed that you exist out in the world without me.

And yet, I find myself really glad to be working. I feel freed and refreshed by getting out of the house, having challenges that are not baby related and seeing other people. Three days a week in the office feels like a perfect balance for us and I feel so lucky to have a flexible career that allows me to make tradeoffs between being a mom and being a breadwinner. 

Despite thighs that seem covered in rolls you remain a little guy -- only in the 15th percentile for weight and still rocking your 3-6 month onesies into month 7. You’re moving up in height though -- all the way to the 83%.

It has been a month of milestones.

You’re eating real people food -- pineapple, yogurt, sweet potatoes, kiwis, beets, avocados -- all of it has been used as paint, makeup and occasionally sustenance. It is a glorious mess. You’re a joy to watch, making breakfast and mid-afternoon snacks an occasion for uproarious laughter. The morning poops, on the other hand, are only for groans, gags and tears. So gross, Buddy. So. Gross.

The first of your teeth, your left bottom one in the middle, cut through your gums on 6/3 followed almost immediately by its neighbor on the right. You required a few doses of baby tylenol, many mesh feeders filled with frozen fruit and lots of cuddles to get through the pain. Now that both teeth are half up, jagged little sawtooths, your mouth is a danger zone. We’re banning chewing on mom’s fingers. You have recently starting to signal that you are done nursing with a hard chomp and my boobs are becoming Casper-shy.

You’ve started sitting up unassisted -- I wrote down 6/6 as the official milestone date but its been a slow progression over the last few weeks. People tell me that you are now in the ideal baby stage -- capable of being set down to play and yet incapable of going anywhere unassisted but I still find you too wobbly to leave unwatched on the floor for fear of head bumps.

Despite the stinky poop, the wails at 3am and the biting of my nipples your dad and I think we have gotten lucky with you. You’re such a happy baby. People comment on it constantly (when they aren’t telling us how pretty your eyes are). For us you are the baseline -- the only baby we have ever known. I often assume that all 6 month old babies are, if not just like you then, at least variations on the theme of golden retriever in human form -- all drool and dopiness, ready to be everyone’s friend. But folks tell me that not all babies are so affable and then I wonder if biology is trying to trick me into having a second child -- I’ll let my guard down thinking I’ll get another easy happy little ball of giggles and end up with that other type of baby -- whiney, angry, clingy.

I was prepared for motherhood to change me. Prepared for less me time. Prepared for (or at least resigned to) less sleep. I was not prepared to have my pop culture world rocked. For years I have harbored a lowbrow love for MTVs 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. The parade of train wrecks exactly the kind of accident that I could never look away from. Until now. I tried getting into the latest round of girls unexpectedly in the family way, but, this time around, reality TV felt too real. The moms too unprepared. The babies too helpless. The situation suddenly eliciting more watery eyes than eye rolls. You are turning me into a sentimental mess. I recall the day sometime in the mid nineties when I caught Grandma Kay tearing up over a Kleenex commercial and worry for my future.